The Polish soccer team may have been eliminated from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but their premier mixed martial artist is ready to pick up the nation and become a champion once again.
Former light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz was on his way over to Las Vegas for UFC 282 when developments on the ground suddenly resulted in the big Pole earning another shot at championship glory.
The scheduled main event clash between champion Jiri Prochazka and former champ Glover Teixeira was scrapped after it emerged that Prochazka had sustained a major shoulder injury that required surgery and had vacated his title.
Teixeira was given the opportunity to fight for the vacant belt against Russian contender Magomed Ankalaev, but when the Brazilian asked for more time to prepare for the dangerous new opponent, the UFC switched tack and offered the bout to Blachowicz instead.
Now Blachowicz and Ankalaev will face off for the vacant 205-pound title in the main event of UFC 282, with Teixeira the likely next man in line as the UFC looks to keep the division moving during Prochazka’s lengthy injury hiatus.
Speaking at media day ahead of the fight, Blachowicz said he was ready to take the opportunity with both hands after only learning of the opportunity upon landing in the United States.
“An early Christmas gift!” he grinned.
“I enjoy it. It is what it is. I take my chance you know. Everybody would use this situation.
I didn’t expect that. I was the last to know what’s happened because I was on the plane when everything happened.
“So, when I landed I checked my phone and my phone was crazy. A lot of messages and I found this message from my manager, “You’ve got a title shot!” I could not believe it the first time, so I read it four times and I showed it to my coach. Yay! We’ve got a title shot!
“We were excited, you know? I think that I deserve this after the fight with Rakic. I really wanted to take a rematch with Glover, so OK, I have to wait a little bit longer, do one more fight but, you know, the universe worked with me very well. I wish Jiri the best recovery. But I will take my chance and be the champion again.”
Blachowicz was full of praise and respect for his opposite number at UFC 282, but said that he plans on joining Paul Craig in an exclusive club of fighters to have defeated Ankalaev.
“Of course he is (dangerous), look at his record,” he said.
“Seventeen and one, nine-win streak, so it’s time to stop it and make his record 17-2.
“But, for sure, he’s one of the best. I’ve got a lot of respect for his skills. This is going to be a tough fight. I expect a tough fight, and I’m ready for this tough fight.”
And, after seeing his fellow countrymen eliminated from the World Cup, Blachowicz vowed to give his nation cause for sporting celebration by becoming a two-time UFC light heavyweight champion.
“I believe that, after what’s happened in the soccer championships, Poland will celebrate again with me in a couple of days,” he smiled.
“So yeah, I hope that I’m gonna be the champion and we’re gonna celebrate together like last time.”